album review

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams [Album Review]

by Woody on October 26, 2012

Like our good friends, Kopecky Family Band, Lord Huron built up a nice buzz on the strength of two excellent EPs and some excellent performances at SXSW, CMJ and other festivals. Fans have been clamoring for Lord Huron’s debut and, like Kopecky, it answered the bell and then some.

The crux of Lord Huron is Ben Schneider, a Michigan native that found his out way west to California. Lord Huron is rounded out by Mark Barry (percussion, vocals), Miguel Briseno (bass, percussion), Brett Farkas (guitar, vocals) and Tom Renaud (guitar, vocals). The quintet blends the pastoral folk of Fleet Foxes, the Afro-pop percussion elements of Graceland era Paul Simon with the indie pop sensibility of Local Natives. That’s alot of good ingredients mixed together and, like meaty stew, chicken pot pie a bowl of veggie chili, all parts blend together effortlessly leaving you satisfied, but not bloated.

The central themes in most of the tracks tend to be nature and the fairer sex and Schneider knows how to write a song. The lyrics offer a bit more than Bieber singing about his swag. The opening verse of my favorite track, She Lit a Fire, is:

I’ve been through the desert
And I’ve been across the sea
I’ve been walking through the mountains
I’ve wandered through the trees
For her

The lyrics throughout the album paint vivid pictures and the sound creates atmosphere, putting the listener in a specific place. Nowhere is this more prominent than on the gorgeous (Oz’s favorite), The Ghost On The Shore. The mix is fantastic as hints of strings, harmonica and squealing guitar pop in and out as Schneider more or less reads an elegy. The harmonies on this tune give it a spiritual feel and you’re transported to a cold, foggy, desolate coast somewhere with jagged rocks and soaring cliffs. At least I was, but he’s probably singing of Lake Huron, which has its own cold and fog. The lyrics are chilling:

Right where I lay let my bones turn to sand
I was born on a lake and I don’t want to leave you
Every eye on the coast every morn will remember
The sight of the ghost on the shore

Time to Run is another standout track that increases the pace of temp and highlights the band’s sense of percussion and rhythm – again, in a way that would make Paul Simon proud. In a year with tremendous debut albums, Lonesome Dreams is right up there with the best of them.

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Something about hearing Joey Siara’s voice straining over giant hooks by his brother Andy just puts a smile on my face. I can’t put my finger on it. In some ways, the lyrics music shouldn’t connect with my old, tired ass. But as Joey Siara describes the album, I realize that I may still have some teenage angst in me: “We wanted to finally make the record that our 16-year old selves would have been excited about. Unfortunately the only way to do so was to live for the last 13 years and get some adult suffering under our belt. Now we can direct our misguided teenage angst at our failed 20s.”

In many ways, this should be blaring from the high school kid’s house next door while I spin some Dead bootlegs and play some old Johnny Cash, but goddamn, it does make me feel alive. I told Oz, “listening to the new Henry Clay was like getting an electric shock to my balls,” and I meant it as a compliment. As you hit your 40s, it’s easy to get complacent but cranking HCP the other night while grilling burgers made me feel like the dirtbag that I really am.

Like their first two albums, Twenty-Five For The Rest of Our Lives is full of sweeping, steering wheel-banging, chorus scream-along anthems. On this effort, however, it as a more rambunctious feel than their first effort on TBD Records, Somewhere On The Golden Coast. As Siara conveys in his comment above, they are comfortable in who they are and in their sound. And that means channeling their influences – The Mats, Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement, amongst others.

I greeted this release with very little excitement as I thought I might have outgrown them. But after a couple of spins, I decried, “Fuck it!” and cranked it up loud and haven’t stopped listening. I suggest you do the same.

HearYa Live Session can be found here.

Henry Clay People – 25 For the Rest of Our Lives by tbd records

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Kalispell – Westbound [Album Review]

by Woody on June 5, 2012

Do you like The Low Anthem? We do too. That’s why this debut LP from Eau Claire’s Kalispell has been in steady rotation for the last month plus. The thing I have always loved about The Low Anthem is the ability to use silence and space to get the most out of their music. Kalispell has that same ability, but with an extra helping of twang – something that always makes the HearYa folk smile.

On Marion, MT the word emerge ever so slowly from Leonard as he opens up his soul. The song has generous helpings of fiddle to give it a kick in the middle as the pump organ provides the backdrop. The lyrics are excellent.

all the way your river winds
I can’t trace the lines
it’ll be some time before I find you
I’ll float along beside you

oh brother, how true, how true
can your time find its use?
there’s a fall coming soon, won’t you mind it?
swallow the stream you can’t swim

The lyrics in the second track, Methodist Lift, are also stellar. Buoyed by a tasty banjo riff, Leonard sings:

church taught me how to hold a grudge
my brother taught me how to let it go
he learned from his father
we learn from our father
isn’t that the way that this is supposed to go?

The music is meticulous in its arrangement, placing every note it’s perfect place, but it feels effortless and natural. Take it for a test drive below and then go to their Bandcamp page and slap down some $ for it.

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On the Tuesday night of SXSW, Oz was trying preview Nick Waterhouse for me before seeing his set the following day. I was skeptical at best; ornery at my worst. I remarked to him, “I hope this isn’t some hipster bullshit revival act where some clown gets up in a suit and sings some old-school karaoke crap.”

The next day, we had just witnessed an amazing set from Lee Fields and I was still prickly. “That’s a tough set to live up to,” I remarked. But then, not only did Nick Waterhouse put to rest any moronic preconceived notion I had, his set left my jaw on the ground. I was blown away like no other set that week.

While Waterhouse is inspired by the music of my parents, he stamps his own style on it. His sound is little rough around the edges and can occasionally come of the rails – an attribute that I appreciate. I love the fact that the music maintains some lo-fi garage aesthetic and isn’t polished up within an inch of its life. Slick production could cause the music to lose its soul and that clearly doesn’t happen here. The horns aren’t just along for the ride. They constantly add some serious punch throughout the album. And if all that isn’t enough, Waterhouse can tear it up on the guitar.

The opening track, “I Wanna Know,” had the crowd in a frenzy when we saw him at The Shangri-La in Austin. It has a punchy baritone sax pushing it forward and then the background female vocals enter the fray offering support before one of the ladies takes over the final verse. As she belts, “We trying and we want to know,” the others back her with repeatedly singing, “Say I wanna know” while Waterhouse works into a furious guitar solo. On the album, it is amazing but seeing it live is mind-blowing.

“Is That Clear” begins with a gritty guitar riff coming out of an analogue amp that slowly builds into a 2:30 minute rocking, swinging affair. I love Waterhouse’s raw vocals on this tune that is one of the best singles of the year.

I have been obsessed with Waterhouse since SXSW. I got home Sunday morning and I pulled his EP up on MOG and played it immediately for my wife. I now have his debut LP Time’s All Gone on steady repeat and am itching for a tour that’ll bring him through Chicago. The record is out now.

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John Fullbright – From The Ground Up [Album Review]

May 8, 2012

I remember the first time we all heard Joe Pug. Listening to his lyrics, I would have guessed him to be closer to my age than his true age of 23. The lyrics he put to paper belied his true age. The same is true of newcomer John Fullbright and his astonishingly young age of […]

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The Mastersons – Birds Fly South [Album Review]

May 7, 2012

I first crossed paths with The Mastersons at SxSW 2011 at The San Jose. As I sat in the sun drinking micheladas, they cranked out the twang with boy/girl harmonies that made my heart swell. I plugged that name into the ol’ smart phone and promised that I would look them up when I got […]

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The District Attorneys – Slowburner [Album Review]

April 30, 2012

When he last checked in on them, The District Attorneys had just kicked out a great cover of Gillian Welch’s Wrecking Ball. Now the band is back with their proper full length debut, Slowburner, and they appear to have been studying at the temple of My Morning Jacket. The lead single, “Confusion of Trust,” has a 60’s […]

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Are The Lumineers this year’s Head and The Heart? Avett Brothers? Mumford and Sons? [Album Review]

April 19, 2012

I have a demanding day job that has me flying around the country regularly. Conversations with strangers at airport bars or on flights lead to the “what do you do for a living?” question, usually uttered within 5 minutes of meeting someone. 20% of the time the conversation lasts long enough for me to mention […]

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Bahamas – Barchords [Album Review]

April 11, 2012

I fell in love with Bahamas back in 2011. The band was really just Canadian singer/songwriter, Afie Jurvanen, so I suppose I just admitted falling in love with a man in 2011. It was a confusing year for me. Bahamas released Barchords in the US back in February via Brushfire Records – Jack Johnson’s label. I’ll […]

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Bhi Bhiman – Bhiman [Album Review]

March 29, 2012

We’re all guilty of judging a book by its cover at one point or another. I’ll write off bands just based on their name alone if I’m tired or cranky. So when receiving an email about Bhi Bhiman with all sorts of plaudits about how he was the next American folk-hero and the accompanying picture […]

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